Seafood follows a highly complex path from a fishing vessel to our plate, with a risk of fraud and mislabelling at each step along the way.
The federal government recently created two marine protected areas in the Pacific region and has committed to increase ocean protection from one per cent to 10 by 2020. But will this be enough? Thinking of the ocean in square kilometres is just skimming the surface. Life thrives throughout the water column, top to bottom.
There is neither scientific evidence that grey seals are impacting salmon stocks, nor anything to indicate that a seal cull would improve salmon recovery. In fact, scientists warn that killing off top predators such as seals could make the situation worse, resulting in unexpected and undesired consequences on salmon and other species.
The first electrons of power flowed across the seabed in Nova Scotia's Minas Basin recently delivering electricity to homes, from a giant instream tidal device. I want to be excited about it. Happy even. Instead, it's tainted by the dismissive attitude of Nova Scotia's government towards indigenous people and fishers, or really anyone in the province who raises concerns about the potential impact on their lives from these experiments.
Some Canadians may remember the collapse of the cod and groundfish fisheries in 1992, which resulted in 30,000 lost jobs and cost $4 billion dollars. As we approach the 25th anniversary of this cautionary event, we are finally seeing early signs of a fragile but broad-based cod recovery.
While the announcement about an investment in science is a welcome relief, it can only lead to healthier fish stocks if the government gathers and shares information about them, and uses the science to allow depleted species to rebuild - something successive governments have ignored.
Why are creatures like electric rays, which prefer warmer southern California or Baja waters, turning up with greater frequency further north? Unlike land temperatures, which constantly fluctuate, ocean temperatures are usually stable, with virtually no daily changes, little seasonal differentiation and only minor shifts over decades.
Canada was one of many countries at the 2010 UN Convention on Biological Diversity to commit to protecting 10 per cent of its marine areas by 2020. As a marine nation bordering three oceans with over seven million square kilometres of ocean area and the longest coastline of any country, Canada has a responsibility to lead on ocean stewardship. We have acts, policies and departments to support strong positions to safeguard ocean ecosystems. Yet the reality is that more has been said than done.
An internal government memo obtained recently by the Blacklock's Reporter and marked "SECRET" confirms that there is no scientific link between grey seals and fish stocks, completely destroying Canada's claims that grey seals need to be culled to protect groundfish.
In British Columbia, salmon are sacred. For centuries, they have nourished First Nations and settlers alike, and continue to sustain virtually all of the wildlife we cherish in B.C.: orcas, eagles, bears, seals and sea lions, wolves and even our forests. Wild salmon make life possible on the West Coast. So why are our federal and provincial governments trying to kill them? I do not speak of simple neglect. I mean actively working towards the destruction of wild salmon.
Recent cuts to Environment Canada's operating budget have left the department a shadow of its former self and unable to enforce what little environmental laws are left. The Harper Government has burned enough environmental legislation to keep the Minister warm for an entire winter in her home in chilly Gjoa Haven. Nero fiddles while Rome burns.
In our view, these regulations allow the ministers to authorize a broad range of pollution with few limits or checks and balances. It is natural to fear that the federal government is preparing to abdicate its responsibilities to protect fish from pollution.
Scientists are calling it "libricide." Seven of the nine world-famous Department of Fisheries and Oceans [DFO] libraries were closed by autumn 2013, ostensibly to digitize the materials and reduce costs. But sources told the independent Tyee in December that a fraction of the 600,000-volume collection had been digitized. Irreplaceable documents like the 50 volumes produced by the H.M.S. Challenger expedition of the late 1800s that discovered thousands of new sea creatures, are now moldering in landfills.
Last week, The Cohen Commission of Inquiry into the Decline of Sockeye Salmon in the Fraser River released its Final Report. Although a wide variety of issues are covered, the 75 recommendations can be summarized into five key points.
The Canadian Senate, our Senate, has just released its report on the "management" of grey seal populations on Canada's East Coast and recommends spending millions in taxpayer dollars on an "experiment" that is so incredibly flawed that, whatever the result, it will be entirely unreliable.
There was plenty of evidence presented to the Senate Committee that a cull of grey seals would be scientifically risky, unethical, and expensive. Yet, on Tuesday, the senate recommended one anyway. In addition to scientists and sealers -- most Canadians are also opposed to a seal cull. First, It is unlikely that a cull in Eastern Canada would have a substantial positive effect on cod populations. Second, that the majority of grey seal diets consists of fatty forage fish such as herring, sand lance, and other small fish, and therefore they would not expect much, if any, benefit of culling seals on cod.
The Harper government is waging war on Canada's fresh water. Industry will now have unprecedented influence over water protection policy and the Harper cabinet will make decisions about which watersheds deserve protection based on political, not scientific, grounds. What a travesty Harper has decided to sacrifice our freshwater heritage in order to please his industry friends.
Despite the knowledge that many species depend on salmon, humans have never managed fisheries with wildlife in mind. A salmon can enter a fishing net or the mouth of a grizzly bear, but can we manage for the interests of both?
Recently, leaked information has shown that the Canadian government is considering drastic changes to section 35(1) of the Fisheries Act, removing provisions that prevent any industrial activities which "result in the harmful alteration, disruption or destruction of fish habitat." So, why should you care?
Half the world's oxygen is produced in the oceans yet the federal government recently rejected millions of dollars in funding for a collaborative effort to establish a marine spatial plan and network of protected areas in Canada's Pacific North Coast waters. Why? Because it might restrict oil tanker traffic.